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Schwartz Doles Out Dating Advice

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


Robyn Kim / Heights Staff

Pepper Schwartz, a relationship expert and sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, doled out some valuable advice to students in her lecture Thursday night.

As part of its Love Your Body Week programming, the Boston College Women’s Resource Center (WRC) invited Schwartz, who gave a lecture titled “Intimate Bodies: Love, Sex, and Relationships.”

She began the talk with an analysis of love, describing both the social and biological factors involved. “Part of it is a hunger—a drive,” Schwartz said. “We were designed to have these hormones: testosterone, dopamine, and oxytocin.”

She also used Sternberg’s Love Triangle to describe the different levels of love associated with varying attachment strategies. “He basically says that love varies on a continuum and if they all line up right, you get a kind of profound love,” she said. “If they don’t line up, you get what is called fatuous love, which is just infatuation or passion.”

Schwartz also detailed the components of good relationships. “The best relationships have a balance,” Schwartz said. “There is a principle that comes out of psychology and sociology called the principle of least interest, and it basically means that having less desire makes you more powerful.

“The person who loves the most gives away a lot of power. The gap between who loves who and what follows cannot be too great,” she said. “But there are things that are stacked in the beginning. It could be the person who’s agreed upon as being more gorgeous, who makes more money, who has a better job.”

In order for a relationship to work, she explained, both sides must possess at least a foundation of self-assurance. “The trick in relationships is not to stay with someone who increases your emotional or sexual insecurity,” she said.

Body image, Schwartz noted, plays a pivotal role. “Our bodies are often a point of vulnerability, because they don’t look like we think they’re supposed to,” she said. “Now, this goes for men as well.

“There’s a huge, huge industry that keeps feeding this image all the time. This is a totally cultural thing. We’re culturally soaked in this stuff, and it’s hard to pull ourselves away from it and say, ‘What’s real for me?’ We have to think about these expectations.”

In the end, Schwartz emphasized communication as the most important tool for forging good relationships. “I think my point here about love and sex is you have to take responsibility for what you say,” Schwartz said. “What you say matters. You’ve got to talk. It really comes down to that.”

 She acknowledged the difficulty of this communication, particularly with such a personal topic. “Intimacy is hard, and it’s really about saying the tough stuff and knowing that you’re with someone who will respect that and honor it,” Schwartz said. “It’s hard to deal with our real bodies and real insecurities. It’s easier to have sex than talk about it.”

She attributes this communication barrier to the hook-up culture predominant on college campuses. “Is hooking up passionate?” Schwartz asked the students in the audience. “Yes, it is. But it’s not a relationship. In a lot of ways, hooking up is the anti-relationship.”

Even in the face of these challenges, though, Schwartz remained optimistic about love. “We are very ambitious for relationships, and I think we should be,” she said. “We want it to be a combination of our minds, our bodies, and our spiritual sense of ourselves. If you want something special in a relationship, you have to give it the best of who you are, while also voicing your rights, safety, interests, and future.”

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